Welcome back! – When is older too old?

DPSN is officially up and running for 2013 and we’re excited to be back!  Last year, we increased our online presence to help promote news, events and opinion pieces around the themes of diversity, creativity and social change.  This year we aim to expand on this further and we have some great ways for you to take part.

In April we start our 100 Days Project – “100 Faces of Diversity” – where you get the chance to be featured on DPSN as well as in a 100 Days exhibition.  We still need plenty more photo’s to make our entry happen, so don’t forget to email them to barbara@diversitynz.com.  You can read more about the project and how to participate here.

DPSN is run on donations to Diversityworks Trust.  Our generous funding from the Todd Foundation is now complete, which means we need your help to continue!  We will be starting a PledgeMe campaign to try and crowdsource DPSN admin costs and keep us up and running.  We’ll have more information soon…watch this space!

Don’t forget we also love to have guest bloggers on DPSN.  Find out how to get your writing featured on the site here.

DPSN guest blogger and Diversityworks Trust founder Philip Patston starts us off this year with a blog on age, relationships and the social norms we take for granted.  Have a read and let us know what you think in the poll below.

Relationships – intimate ones I mean – come with a number of socially defined, but often unspoken, rules of thumb. For straights, the guy should be taller and slightly older than the woman. The couple should be together for a certain time before moving in with each other. And, of course, they should be monogamous unless they’re terribly modern and in an “open” relationship, which usually means one partner is allowed to sleep around and the other usually doesn’t.

I’m slightly overstating these by way of introducing my topic of interest. But I would go so far as to say that the issue of large age differences between two people – I’m talking as much as 30 years (more than a generation) – is still largely misunderstood, not to mention frowned upon, by most, in both heterosexual and non-heterosexual society.

I recently read a book called Older Man Younger Man by Joseph Dispenza, an account of Joseph’s ten year relationship with Mike, whom he met when he was 55. Mike was 25. In the book Joseph is frank and honest about his fear and uncertainties; his awareness of judgement by others, particularly Mike’s parents; and his constant questioning of his motives for loving a man young enough to be his son.

Throughout the book a second narrative (presumably Joseph’s journalling) discusses ancient attitudes about mentor/student relationships between older and younger men; the mutual attractions of youthful physical prowess and the wisdom of maturity; and musings about past lives where he and Mike may have known each other in different relationships and with different age gaps.

A friend, who also read the book, said, “To be honest, I didn’t like it much. I found their ‘love’ to be extremely co-dependent and 100% based on fear.” I agreed, saying, “I totally agree it was fear based – but I found it an honest and interesting account of how a lot of people play out relationships. And to give Joseph his due, he was honest about his fear and he didn’t want Mike to stay against his will. I couldn’t decide whether his fear of being too old was lack of confidence or humility.”

Joseph quoted an interesting rule of thumb about how much age difference is acceptable in romantic relationships. He said you should halve the older person’s age and add seven to find the youngest aged person with whom you should be intimate. For me, at 45, half my age is 22.5, plus 7 is 29.5 – so I shouldn’t even consider men who are younger than 30.
Ironically the equation favours you as you get older. At 45 a 15-year age gap is tolerable. At 70 however, the acceptable gap increases to 28 years.

I enjoyed the book in that it made me think about whether I would have much in common with someone under 30 in any case. Certainly Joseph and Mike’s relationship seemed at times to fall into parent/child archetypes. But at the end of the book he cited several well-known and renowned people whose lovers were much younger, leaving the question in my mind, does age really matter?

What do you think?

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